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Research Skills Tutorial: 6. Using Sources

Intended to help you develop the skills required to complete research assignments

Summarizing, Paraphrasing & Quoting

A summary is a condensed version of information from another source. Summaries usually highlight the main points discussed in a source.

When you summarize:

  • Keep your summary brief. Summaries should be much shorter than the original source.
  • Stick to just the main points.
  • Make sure your summary is in your own words.

A paraphrase is a restatement of another person's ideas in your own words. 

When you paraphrase, you must:

  • Change both the sentence structure and the words used.
  • Accurately express the original author's ideas.

Paraphrasing tips:

  • First read the original passage a few times to make sure you understand what the author is saying. 
  • Write down the author's main points in point form. 
  • When writing your paraphrase, don't look at the source you are paraphrasing. Use your notes of the author's main points and write sentences that present those ideas in different ways. 
  • Avoid switching out words with synonyms. This will create sentences that sound odd!
  • ​When taking notes, try to paraphrase important passages immediately, rather than writing down direct quotes. This can lead to unintentional plagiarism.

Quotes are a word-for-word copy of what another author said.

When you quote:

  • Make sure quotes are contained in "quotation marks."
  • Make sure you don't over-rely on quotes! Your paper should mostly be your own original ideas. Use quotes only to illustrate your point.
  • Use quotes from experts, not from unreliable sources
  • If you have to change a word within a quotation, put the changed word in square brackets.

General Tips

  • Your research paper needs to provide a balance between outside sources and your own original ideas. 

  • When you paraphrase, summarize or quote another author, their ideas should be connected to your own.

See OWL Purdue's sample summary, paraphrase and quotation from an essay to get a better sense of how you can use sources in your own paper. 

Signal Phrases

  • Use signal phrases to introduce a paraphrase, summary or quotation, such as "according to," "argues," "contends,"or "states."

After a quotation, summary or paraphrase, explain why the source is significant or how the idea relates to your own argument.

Test Your Knowledge!

True or False: It's OK if your paper is mostly quotes, as long as you cite them.
True: 104 votes (31.9%)
False: 222 votes (68.1%)
Total Votes: 326